About the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program

What is the Ryan White Program?

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides HIV-related health care services through grants to cities, states and community organizations. The Ryan White Program is a “payer of last resort” for people who are uninsured or underinsured and is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HIV/AIDS Bureau. In the Memphis area, the program is administered by the Shelby County Division of Community Services.

Is care free?

There is no catch. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is a federal program that provides free HIV-related health care services for those who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources to cope with the disease. There are no charges imposed on clients with incomes below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Charges to clients with incomes greater than 100% of poverty are determined by the schedule of charges. Annual limitation on amounts of charge (i.e., caps on charges) for Ryan White services (including ADAP) are based on percent of patient’s annual income, as follows:

  1. 5% for patients with incomes between 100% and 200% of FPL
  2. 7% for patients with incomes between 200% and 300% of FPL
  3. 10% for patients with incomes greater than 300% of FPL

What is a care or service provider?

A care or service provider is an organization that offers services to people living with HIV/AIDS in connection with the Ryan White Program. For a list of our providers and services, please visit our Get Care page.

Who is eligible for Ryan White services?

People living with HIV/AIDs are eligible for Memphis Ryan White Program services in the Memphis area if they:

1. Reside in one of the following counties:

  • Tennessee:
    • Shelby County
    • Fayette County
    • Tipton County
  • Arkansas:
    • Crittenden County
  • Mississippi:
    • DeSoto County
    • Marshall County
    • Tate County
    • Tunica County

2. Have no health insurance or are underinsured

3. Have income at or below 400% of federal poverty level

4. Have proof of HIV/AIDS infection

For more information or to schedule an appointment for eligibility certification, please contact a medical case manager at one of the agencies listed below:

What is the HIV Care and Prevention Group?

Appointed by the Shelby County Mayor, the Memphis Transitional Grant Area Ryan White HIV Care and Prevention Group (HCAP) seeks to create a seamless continuum of care for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The goal of HCAP is to address the unmet needs of PLWHA in the Memphis area. Together with the Memphis Ryan White Program, HCAP conducts planning activities to determine service needs for PLWHA and to allocate funding to match the identified needs.

HCAP began as a 35-member volunteer group with at least one-third of the council being PLWHA who are not employees, volunteers or board members of Ryan White Program service providers. In addition, the group includes individuals who represent at least one of the following categories:

  • Persons who formerly were federal, state or local prisoners who were released from custody during the preceding three years and who had HIV/AIDS on the date on which they were released, or persons who can adequately represent the health care and support service needs of incarcerated PLWHA
  • Community-based organizations, AIDS services organizations, and home care providers who are PLWHA
  • Social service providers furnishing services to PLWHA, including housing and homeless services
  • Mental health providers
  • Substance abuse treatment providers
  • State and local public health agencies
  • Hospitals and health care planning agencies
  • Non-elected community leaders involved with the HIV/AIDS community
  • State Medicaid agency
  • State agency administering the Memphis Ryan White Part B program
  • Ryan White Program Part C grantees
  • Ryan White Program Part D grantees
  • Health care providers, including federally qualified health centers
  • Grantees under other federal HIV programs, including providers of HIV/AIDS prevention services

What is a consumer?

A consumer is an eligible individual receiving Ryan White medical and/or support services.

How do I file a grievance?

It is the policy of the Memphis TGA Ryan White Program of Shelby County Health Department (Recipient) to show commitment in hearing and responding to complaints filed by funded service providers and individuals receiving services from funded service providers. It is the desire of the Recipient to respond fairly and in a timely manner. The Recipient will attempt to resolve grievances through informal dispute resolution when possible. The following policy and procedures apply to all programs operated under the auspices of the Recipient, including, but may not be limited to Ryan White Part A, MAI, EHE, and HIV Prevention funding.

See: Grievance Policy and Reporting Form

General Information About HIV/AIDS

What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. HIV destroys your blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which help the body defend itself against diseases.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV is the virus that causes the disease AIDS. Although HIV causes AIDS, you can be infected with HIV for many years before AIDS develops.

When HIV enters the body, it infects specific cells in the immune system. These cells are called CD4 cells or helper T cells. They are important parts of your immune system and help your body fight infection and disease. When your CD4 cells are not working well, you are more likely to get sick.

How many people are living with HIV?

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States. One in seven of those people living with HIV is unaware of his or her infection. More than 13,000 people with AIDS still die each year in the U.S.

While the total number of people living with HIV in the U.S. has increased in recent years, the annual number of new HIV cases has remained stable. Although the infection rate for HIV in the United States has remained stable, an estimated 56,300 Americans become infected with HIV every year.

Shelby, Tipton, Fayette, DeSoto, Tunica, Marshall, Tate and Crittenden counties comprise 11 percent of the populations of Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas, but have 20 percent of the people living with HIV. In those counties, at the end of 2008, there were approximately 6,673 people living with HIV; of those, 78.7 percent were black/African-American, 19.1 percent were white, 1.5 percent were Hispanic/Latino and .7 percent were other/not identified.

What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS?

Getting tested is the only way to know if you have HIV/AIDS. The following may be warning signs, though:

  • Weight loss
  • Frequent fevers and sweats
  • Lack of energy
  • Swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin or neck
  • Persistent skin rashes
  • Severe herpes infections that cause mouth, genital or anal sores
  • Short-term memory loss

These symptoms may be related to an illness other than HIV. Talk to a doctor if you have questions.

How is HIV spread?

Ways HIV is spread:

  • Having unprotected sex (anal, oral or vaginal sex without a condom) with someone who has HIV.
  • Sharing a needle to inject drugs or sharing drug “works” with someone who has HIV.
  • At the time of birth, having a mother who was infected with HIV.
  • Blood transfusions ceased to be a risk factor after universal testing of all blood for HIV began in 1985.

HIV is NOT spread in the following ways:

  • Working with or being around someone who has HIV
  • Being stung or bitten by an insect
  • Sitting on toilet seats
  • Doing everyday things like sharing a meal
  • Handling pets and other animals
  • Donating blood
  • Coming into contact with saliva, tears, sweat, feces or urine

I have HIV and am pregnant. Will my child have HIV?

A woman who knows about her HIV infection early in pregnancy and is treated appropriately has about a 2 percent chance of delivering a baby with HIV. Without treatment, this risk is about 25 percent in the United States.

How do I know if I have HIV? Are there symptoms?

People with HIV can still feel completely healthy. The only way to be sure whether someone is HIV-infected is to get tested. Free tests can be administered by a doctor, community testing site or local health department. Call (877) HIV-KNOW or (877) 448-5669 to ask questions about getting tested in the Memphis area. To find a testing location near you, visit www.hivtest.org.

If I am tested and do not have HIV, does that mean my partner(s) are HIV-negative also?

No. HIV test results reveal only the tested person’s HIV status. A negative test result does not indicate whether your partner has HIV. HIV is not necessarily transmitted every time during sexual intercourse. Therefore, taking an HIV test should not be seen as a method to find out if a partner is infected. Asking partners if they have been tested for HIV and what risk behaviors they have engaged in is the best option. Couples should consider getting tested together to know whether a partner is at risk.

How can I talk to someone like me who is also living with HIV?

You can refer to Friends for Life (FFL) for peer mentors.

I have a friend who has HIV but is afraid to tell anyone. What can I do?

Why not share this website with them? Reading the personal stories of other Memphis-area residents living with HIV might help them feel more comfortable seeking help. Even if they do not tell their friends or family members, you can encourage them to seek treatment through a health care provider in their area. They can speak anonymously to a Memphis-area resident who is also living with HIV by calling (877) HIV-KNOW or (877) 448-5669.

Is there a cure for HIV/AIDS?

No. Many researchers continue to work to find a vaccine that will prevent HIV infection and treatments that may one day cure HIV. However, there are medications that can help you live with the disease and dramatically prolong your life. It is important that you get tested for HIV and know that you are infected early in order for medical care and treatment to have the greatest effect.

About HIV/AIDS Treatment

Why are seeking treatment and staying in care important?

If you are living with HIV, it is important that you seek medical care as soon as possible. This will increase the chance of living a long, healthy life, while also protecting sexual partners and others who may be at risk of contracting the virus.Treatment for HIV is more than just taking pills every day. While medications are essential for treating HIV, a well-balanced and nutritious diet, daily exercise, rest, and staying current with your medical care are all important aspects of treatment. Each of these things helps boost the immune system and prevent other diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

How can I stay healthier longer?

A few things you can do to stay healthy are:

  • Make sure your health care provider knows how to treat HIV.
  • Keep all appointments.
  • Talk with your doctor to find the best treatment plan for you.
  • Talk with your doctor or nurse if medications cause side effects.
  • Get shots to prevent infections such as pneumonia or the flu.
  • Practice safer sex to reduce the risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease or another strain of HIV.
  • Quit smoking and using any drugs not prescribed by a doctor.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get enough sleep and rest.
  • Take time to relax.
  • Meditation and prayer have helped some people cope with the stress of having HIV.

I found out that I have HIV. What do I do now?

You will likely experience a range of emotions upon receipt of your results. Seeking immediate medical treatment is important, but emotional support is also crucial. That support can come from a variety of places:

  • Friends, family and other loved ones
  • Other HIV-infected people
  • Support groups

The sooner you take steps to protect your health, the better. Early medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle can help you stay well. Prompt medical care may delay the onset of AIDS and prevent some life-threatening conditions. There are a number of important steps you can take immediately to protect your health:

  • See a licensed health care provider, even if you do not feel sick. Find a health care provider who has experience treating HIV. There are now many medications to treat HIV infection and help you maintain your health.
  • Smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol or using illegal drugs can weaken the immune system. There are programs available that can help you stop or reduce the use of these substances.
  • Get screened for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Undetected STDs can cause serious health problems. It is also important to practice safe-sex behaviors to avoid getting STDs.

Visit the “Get Care” page to find a local agency providing free Memphis Ryan White Program services.

What are the most common drugs used in the treatment of HIV?

Antiretroviral medicines. Because HIV is a type of virus called a retrovirus, the drugs used to treat it are called antiretroviral medicines. These powerful medicines control the virus and slow progression of HIV infection, but they do not cure it. If you are diagnosed with HIV, you need to be prepared to take these medicines exactly as your doctor prescribes. Talk about your concerns with your doctor before starting treatment.

HAART. The current recommended treatment for HIV is a combination of three or more medicines. This regimen of medicines is called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Each HAART regimen is tailored to each individual’s health condition.

Other medicines. A doctor may also prescribe other medicines, depending on a patient’s CD4 cell counts.

Treating other infections. If an HIV infection gets worse and the CD4 cell count falls below 200, you are more likely to get other infections. Doctors may prescribe medicines to prevent particular infections. HIV and HIV-related illnesses vary from person to person, so a doctor will design a medical-care plan specifically for you. To help doctors make the best choices, you must tell your doctors about any side effects or symptoms you experience.

What can I expect at my first doctor’s appointment?

During the first appointment, the doctor will ask questions, perform an examination, take a blood sample and run a few other tests. The doctor may also ask to do a skin test for tuberculosis and give immunization shots.The blood sample will be used for many tests, including a CD4 cell count. Your CD4 cell count shows how many CD4 cells are left in the blood. CD4 cells are part of your body’s immune system response to an infection. The more CD4 cells in the body, the better your body is able to defend itself against infections. This count will indicate how well treatment is working. If it rises, the body is better able to fight infection.

What does U=U mean?

U=U means Undetectable = Untransmittable, indicating that if a person with HIV is on HIV meds (antiretroviral therapy or ART) with a consistently undetectable HIV viral load, the virus cannot be transmitted to a sex partner.